The ALAN workshop

Guys, I’ve found it. Nirvana for book-lovers. It’s called the ALAN Workshop, it was held this year in St. Louis, and I was invited to speak about Prince of Pot on a panel with the shockingly clever and wise Jennifer E. Smith, J.C. Geiger, and Shanetia Clark.

I’m quite sure I was incoherent, but who can blame me? LOOK at the size of this room:

There are 500 teachers at the workshop, all of whom receive a giant box of curated books, which they sort and re-sort in mysterious ways as the day progresses. Plus they seem to know everyone and everything related to YA literature.

But it’s impossible to be nervous (well, almost impossible), because everyone there is (a) incredibly nice and (b) incredibly happy. I met a teacher from Florida outside the convention centre who said, “Isn’t this amazing? I’m so glad I’m an English teacher and not a math teacher. This is so much better than a math convention!”

It was awesome. I want very badly to go back. Or maybe to live permanently amidst those stacks of books.

On a side note, St. Louis itself was also full of wonderful surprises, a few of which are here:

And, best of all:

Thank you, ALAN, for inviting me, and Groundwood Books for sending me!

Introducing Ink Well Vancouver

Today’s launch day! I’ve been working with two of my favourite people, Rachelle Delaney and Stacey Matson, on a new community for children’s writers and aspiring writers. It’s called Ink Well Vancouver. We have lots more plans for the future, but our very first offering is a six-week workshop.

It’s going to look just like this, except indoors and in January.

I would love, love, love if you would sign up to join us. There’s nothing better than an evening spent talking about writing and children’s books, and it’s even better when it’s with awesome people. Sign up is here!

Word Vancouver

It’s almost September! My calendar is a mess of kids’ activities and parent meetings and, in a pale yellow colour that seems to disappear amidst the family chaos, my own book events.

I’m thinking of changing my colour to fuchsia.

In case you’d like to mark your own calendars, in fuchsia or otherwise, I’m doing two events as part of Word Vancouver.

At 6:30 pm on Friday, September 22nd, I’m reading from Shadow Warrior at Christianne’s Lyceum as part of a Heroics and Heart evening. Rachelle Delaney and Kallie George are also reading. AND… here’s the best part… you can wear your pyjamas. I know! All book events should occur in pyjamas. Why don’t more people think of this?

At 2:30 pm on Sunday, September 24th, I’m talking Eyes and Spies in the south plaza of the downtown Vancouver Public Library. (I don’t actually know where the south plaza is, but hopefully we’ll all figure it out and end up there together. It can’t be that hard, right?)

Come and bring friends and fuzzy slippers! (To either event. I won’t judge.) I’d love to have friendly faces in the audience.

In miniature

I went last night to the book launch for Kallie George’s new Heartwood Hotel series, an infinitely adorable collection of books about a resting place for forest animals.

There were masses of kids at the launch, and Kallie entertained them all with stories of her near-death hiking experiences. Then, she sent them to the crafts table to create their own woodland creatures. Once completed, the creatures could check in here:

Yes, that’s a replica of the Heartwood Hotel, created by Kallie’s husband Luke.

So of course I went directly home and showed my pictures to Min, who said he would be happy to build me a miniature grow-op for my Prince of Pot book launch.

But it doesn’t seem quite the same, does it?

Plus, I can’t think of a single craft idea. Well, not a single appropriate craft idea…

Running away to the circus

Why Rachelle Delaney is smarter than me:

First, she wrote books set in Moscow and Prague, and therefore had to travel Europe for research purposes. Then, she wrote a book about a circus school, and took trapeze and parkour lessons.

Why on earth am I setting my books deep in the forest in the middle of the Kootenays?

This is entirely bad planning on my part.

But back to Rachelle. Min, Silence, Violence, and I went to her Wednesday night book launch for The Bonaventure Adventures. The Book Warehouse on Main did a wonderful job of hosting. Rachelle was funny and smart as she told us all about her parkour-lesson bruises (at least I only get mosquito bites on my research trips), and the book is fabulous.


I hope L’École Nationale de Cirque has extra lesson spaces for those of us about to launch our own aerial acts…

The Red Cedars

I went to the Red Cedar Awards Gala on Saturday. This is a student-choice award (the very best kind). About 100 kids from across the province were in attendance, along with their teachers and librarians. Some of my favourite authors were also there. In the photo below, you’ll see Linda Bailey (Seven Dead Pirates), Janet Whyte (Shot in the Dark), Robin Stevenson (The Summer We Saved the Bees), Jordan Stratford (The Case of the Missing Moonstone), Sharon Jennings (Connecting Dots), Jennifer Mook-Sang (Speechless), Merrie-Ellen Wilcox (What’s the Buzz), and me.

It never matters who wins a student-choice award. The reward is in the nomination — knowing hundreds of kids will read your book (DNA Detective, in this case), discuss with friends, and vote. But I did think it was funny that my daughter, when scoping out the competition, said, “Mom, it’s too bad you’re up against that animal rescue book.”

And alas, she was right!

A big congratulations to Julia Coey, who won the Red Cedar information book prize this year with Animal Hospital.

Note to self: add baby chipmunks to all future books.

DNA Detective at the Lyceum

I visited Christianne’s Lyceum last night to meet with the Chronicle Crusaders, a parent-child book club. Then I faced off against the readers on a DNA crossword puzzle (I lost), and tried my hand at genetics pictionary (thus demonstrating why I don’t illustrate my own books).

The Lyceum is truly an amazing place. It’s chock full of books and curiosities and it draws the loveliest readers of both grown-up and kid varieties. One of the kids asked how royalties worked, so we had a rather depressing conversation about how writers get paid, but honestly… I could have been born on a farm in the Ukraine, and spent my life telling stories to chickens. How blessed am I to find myself in the Lyceum loft instead, eating dragon fruit and talking dragon’s blood trees?

Thank you, Chronicle Crusaders, for a fantastic evening!

Cooking is dangerous

I was making wontons a couple nights ago. They tend to spit when I flip them, so I was holding up a splatter screen between me and the frying pan. But somehow, hot oil popped out of the pan, over the screen, and onto my eyelid.

The science writer in me thought, “Wow, it’s amazing that my eye can see airborne oil and signal my brain quickly enough that I fry my eyelid instead of my eye.”

The science writer in me is not the vain type. The vain side of me was looking in the mirror the next morning at my blistered left eyelid and thinking about the UBC presentation I’m giving tonight.

I may scrap my intended script. I may speak about cyclops myths instead. And maybe about pirates.

Authors for Indies

Things that will probably happen at Black Bond Books in Ladner this Saturday, as I participate in Authors for Indies day:

1. They will find me curled in the back corner reading some irresistible book that I’ve found, and they will have to tell me to get back to work.

2. I will recommend Dan Bar-el’s Audrey (Cow) to adults looking for thrillers. Because really, everyone should read Audrey (Cow) and it IS suspenseful.

3. I will meet Ashley Spires and say something gushy, then excuse myself to go to the washroom and knock my head against the wall a few times.

If you would like to join me in any of these activities, I’m at Black Bond from 10 a.m. until noon. Stop by and say hello! Also, read Audrey (Cow).